When a pallet loaded with copies of his solo debut, “Advice on Love,” arrived at his house last year, Pete Curry was sitting in the dark.
“I had missed the [electric] bill to pay for the records,” Curry says, laughing. “And couldn’t even listen to it.”
A chill character easily identified from blocks away by his signature blown-out mane, Curry is one of Richmond’s best-kept musical secrets.
His album is full of lo-fi, woozy garage rock and shimmering surf guitar, pop melodies and the occasional outburst of trashy punk and teetering piano. Always melodic, when Curry sings he’s capable of breaking into falsetto croons and sometimes sounds like Mac Demarco circa 2012, minus the slacker vibe.
Originally from the Philadelphia area, Curry grew up surrounded by music. His dad was a folk musician who played banjo as well as a local country deejay. Curry started playing guitar in the fourth or fifth grade.
“My first instrument was a rubber band that I stretched around the knobs on my dresser,” he says.
When his parents divorced, a guy his mom was dating made him play football. “Once he was out of the picture, I was allowed to quit,” he adds, laughing.
The result was many an after-school jam session with friends and eventually a hardcore band called a Long Winter. Curry then moved to Richmond six years ago to study piano at Virginia Commonwealth University and eventually made friends with a band called the Kindling Kind. They played together and evolved into the Welcome Hips.
While Curry says it was a good run, he was itching to record some solo material. A year-and-a-half ago, he began work on his debut. Recorded in three days at Russell Lacy’s Virginia Moonwalker in Mechanicsville, the album is the first release for Crystal Pistol Records, Curry’s label with Justin Black of Black Water Gold. It specializes in recording to tape and pressing to vinyl.
“I love the California scene — the Burger Records and Lolipop stuff,” Curry says.
His passion for the melodic Elliott Smith and the Beatles is evident.
“I wanted to write more comfortable things for my voice,” he says. “I’m not the person who is going to set out to write a song using alternating time signatures just because I know what they are.”
He explains that he had a four-track that provided “fun limitations” to work with when demonstrating the songs. “When I got to the studio, there were more tracks to play with so I would add stuff like keyboards.”
With little formal promotion, the record has done incredibly well in the Richmond market and elsewhere by word of mouth.
“Someone from France bought one, no idea why,” he says. “I got a message from Spain. It’s been a little crazy, but I’m glad I did it.”
He recently performed at MacRock college music showcase in Harrisonburg and got even more buzz when he released the lo-fi video for “1998” featuring the ultimate Winona Ryder montage and his own mad dance skills.
“I just put up a sheet up in my kitchen, borrowed a camera, and said let’s see what happens,” he says. “My cat ran and hid in the bedroom.”
Curry is a busy guy, juggling two jobs as a line cook at Bamboo Café and working as assistant music director at the Greater Richmond Children’s Choir. He’s also still playing with a boatload of bands including You Go Girl, Death Birds Surf Club and Black Water Gold -- so it might be a while before there’s another full-length album.
“I kinda froze my creative process when I did ‘Advice on Love’ because I wanted to stay in love with it,” he explains. “I’m trying to get things going again creatively.”
The singer and songwriter recently released “Nobody’s Home” on his Bandcamp page, from an EP that will drop June 6. “It’s definitely different with more acoustic guitar and keyboard,” he says.
For those hoping the EP might finally include some relationship advice, you’ll have to look elsewhere. He remains mum on the topic.
“Don’t ask me!” is all you’ll get out of him.
But he happily offers tips on getting that dope-as-hell Pete hair.
“Don’t use a lot of shampoo,” he says. “Pick it out.”
Pete Curry performs Friday, May 6, at Gallery5, Saturday, May 21, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, and Tuesday, May 24, at the Camel. Follow his bandcamp and Facebook pages.